Does Creativity Still Matter in Marketing?

By George Farris

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Baby pictures. We’ve all seen them. When a new parent or grandparent sticks that smartphone under your nose to show you his precious darling, you automatically start to spit out compliments. “He’s definitely his father’s son,” you say, as the proud papa swipes through the first 200 images. “Oh … it’s a girl? She’s beautiful.”

We can see physical attributes in an infant but what we can’t see is his level of creativity. If we could, we’d see a lot of it.

According to a widely cited test originally developed by George Land and Beth Jarmean to help NASA select innovative engineers and scientists, most children are born with creativity but gradually lose the trait as they make the transition into adulthood.  

After testing the NASA people, Land and Jarmean decided to test average citizens. They measured the creativity of a group of children, starting when the children were 5 and again at ages 10 and 15. They also tested adults.

At age 5, 98% of the kids were creative. Only 30% of the same group were identified as creative at age 10 and just 12% by age 15. Only 2% of adults fell into the creativity category. says the test measured “divergent thinking” – the ability to look at a problem, challenge or object and come up with more than one solution or different ways to use said object. The more possibilities you can imagine, the more creative you are.


An article by explains what happens. “As young children, we are more creative because we are looking through ‘unpolluted’ and ‘unsullied’ fresh eyes. As teenagers and adults, we start to filter everything we see, just like a polarized lens that lets in only light that is aligned one way.”

To reverse years of filtered thinking, we need to start connecting experiences and synthesizing new ideas.


With the advent of digital marketing and electronic data gathering, some marketers wrongly believe creativity and innovation are no longer necessary. They assume we can just monitor and measure preferences and habits of prospective customers and then just lay out the offerings accordingly.

But if you can get all of the data on a prospective customer, your competitors can get that data also. So, you and all your competitors make the same offers. Then what?

To beat the competition, you must provide an innovative solution and present it in a creative way.

Creative messages stand out and add value that motivates a purchase. A well-known immutable rule of marketing states, “It’s better to be different than to be better.”  Proving that your product is better is hard and not always believable or even as important as differentiation. 


Since creativity is so important for your marketing, you would be wise to either hire a creative marketing firm or learn to be more creative yourself. Selfishly, I recommend the former – but if you want to improve your own level of creativity, it’s never too late.

Creativity can be learned and un-creative habits can be un-learned. Using the skills of associating, questioning, observing, networking and experimenting, you can develop creative solutions and messages.

Once you are more creative, you can also recognize it in others – maybe even in infant photos:

“Your baby looks very creative,” you say. “You might have the next Steve Jobs from Apple there.”

“What makes you think that?” the parent asks.

“I don’t know,” you reply. “Maybe it’s the glasses, black turtleneck and blue jeans.”

George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing. Email [email protected].